Pool Skimmer Problems, Why It’s Not Working and Solutions

A pool skimmer is a vital part of your swimming pool’s filtration system. It removes floating debris from the water’s surface before it falls to the bottom and clogs the filters. When it’s not working correctly, your pool water can quickly become cloudy and grow algae. Knowing why a pool skimmer is not working will make troubleshooting and fixing it much easier.

Blockages are one of the primary reasons why a pool skimmer is not working. The pool skimmer can stop working when the skimmer basket, skimmer line, or pump basket gets clogged. Other causes are water levels that are too high or low, a dirty filter, a damaged skimmer weir, or air leaks.

If you’re a pool owner, the best way to keep your pool clean is to do regular maintenance. But it’s also essential to maintain your pool equipment, or soon, you won’t be able to do that maintenance. Your pool skimmer is the first line of defense against the debris that wants to destroy your pool. Let’s dive in to find some common reasons why it may stop working and how to fix it.

Why The Pool Skimmer Is Not Working

The pool skimmer is the gateway to your pool’s filtration system. The water passes through the skimmer via a pool hose to the pump and then to the filter tank. The filter tank removes the debris and dirt from the water. The clean water travels to the pool’s return jet via a second pool hose.

If the skimmer doesn’t work, dirt and debris get in where it doesn’t belong, and the circulation and filtration system fails. Let’s look at common causes for a malfunctioning skimmer and how to fix them.

The Pool Skimmer Basket Is Clogged

There’s a basket inside the pool skimmer that collects larger pieces of debris and dirt, preventing it from going through to the filter system. If this basket becomes clogged, it can reduce water flow through the skimmer, making it less effective.

Solution: If the filter pressure seems low, turn off the pool pump and remove the skimmer lid. If the basket is clogged with debris or foreign objects, empty the basket and give it a quick rinse before putting it back. You should also clean out the skimmer basket regularly when you do your pool maintenance, as this prevents it from getting clogged.

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The Pool Skimmer Line Is Clogged

Another common problem with a malfunctioning pool skimmer is that the skimmer line is clogged with dirt or debris. The line is the pipe that connects the skimmer to the pool pump.

If the skimmer line is backed up with waste, it will minimize water flow through the skimmer, rendering it almost useless at removing the floating debris from the pool. This can cause an upset in the water’s pH balance or algae growth.

Solution: Make sure the pool pump is turned off. Use a long, thin object, like the pool skimmer net or a piece of wire to feel inside the skimmer line and remove the blockage. Once the line is clean, the pressure will revert to normal, and the skimmer should work perfectly again.

For a larger pool with several skimmers, where poking into the line is not sufficient to unclog it, you can try the following steps:

  • Lift the plastic cover off the skimmers and remove the basket.
  • Press a skimmer plug firmly into the access hole to prevent water from moving in or out.
  • Attach a high-pressure drain jet to a garden hose, connecting the hose to an outdoor water spigot.
  • Remove the pump lid and connect the drain jet to the intake port.
  • Turn the water on and let the water flow back to the blocked skimmer. The blockage should work itself loose and flow back into the pool.
  • Turn the water off and remove the waste with the pool net.
  • Remove all the skimmer plugs and replace the baskets.
  • Switch on the pool pump to check if the skimmers are working normally again.

A Clogged Pump Basket Affects The Pool Skimmer

The pump basket may seem unimportant compared to the workings of the pump and filter, but it’s a critical component of a pool’s filtration system. Any rubbish like twigs, leaves, and bugs that make it through to the pump are held up in the pump basket, stopping them from creating havoc inside the pump. If the basket is clogged, the skimmer won’t work correctly.

Solution: To check if this is why the skimmer is not working, turn off the pump and open the lid. You will immediately see if the basket is full. If it’s clogged, emptying and rinsing it should solve the problem.

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Incorrect Water Levels Can Affect Pool Skimmers

If your pool’s water level is too low, it can result in the pool skimmer not working. The skimmer will be unable to draw enough water in to function correctly. This can happen if you’ve recently backwashed the pool, if there’s a leak, or if there’s been intense evaporation.

Solution: Look inside the skimmer for a mark indicating the optimal water level. If the water is below the line, fill the pool until the water reaches the appropriate level.

After continuous heavy rain, you might find that your pool skimmer is sluggish. When the pool is too full, the skimmer slows down or stops pulling the debris into the skimmer box. It’s not advisable to drain any water from your pool. You will remove the chemicals necessary to keep it clean, and the change in pH could cause an algae bloom. The pool skimmer is intact, so don’t fix what’s not broken!

A Dirty Filter Can Cause A Pool Skimmer To Malfunction

A dirty filter can cause a pool skimmer to stop working properly. When the filter is clogged with dirt, it reduces the flow through the filtration system, making the pool skimmer sluggish and unable to remove all the dirt from the water.

Solution: Turn off the pool pump and remove the filter from its housing. Check the filter element for dirt and debris. Depending on your filter type, you may need to clean or replace it.

If your pool has a sand filter, you may need to backwash it to remove any built-up debris. For a cartridge filter, remove and clean it with a hose, but if it’s damaged or worn, you will have to replace it. For a DE (diatomaceous earth) filter, you might also need to backwash and recharge the filter with fresh DE powder.

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A Damaged Skimmer Weir Reduces Pool Skimmer Flow

The skimmer weir is the flap that sits over the skimmer opening and helps to regulate the water flow into the skimmer. If it’s broken or damaged, it can impact the skimmer’s efficiency.

Solution: To check for damage, turn off the pump and remove the skimmer lid. If the flap is damaged, you can buy one from your local pool supply store. They are pretty easy to replace.

Air Leaks Can Cause A Pool Skimmer To Stop Working

Air leaks in the pool’s plumbing will prevent the skimmer from pulling in enough water, rendering it ineffective.

Solution: To check for air leaks, turn off the pool pump and inspect the plumbing for cracks or damage to the pipes and fittings. You can also check the pump lid for cracks or a worn seal.

If you find an air leak, you will need to repair it to restore the proper flow of water through the filtration system. Depending on the leak’s location and how serious it is, you may require a professional to do the necessary repairs.


A pool skimmer is a vital part of the filtration system; if it’s not working, your pool’s health could end up down the drain. Fortunately, most issues with skimmers can be easily fixed with some troubleshooting and maintenance. Now that you know the likely culprits, it should be easy to keep your pool skimmer in tip-top condition, leaving you more time to enjoy your pool.

Keeping your pool skimmer in good condition is a part of regular pool maintenance. Refer to our weekly pool maintenance checklist.